Mike Mills with the governor in better days

Gov. Sarah Sanders announced late Friday afternoon that Mike Mills, the secretary of the state’s Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism since only December 2022, is “[stepping] away from the administration” and will be replaced by Arkansas State Parks Director Shea Lewis.

Mills, owner of the Buffalo Outdoor Center in Ponca and a member of the department’s board on outdoor tourism, was appointed by Sanders to lead the department in December. He replaced Stacy Hurst, an Asa Hutchinson appointee.


Another department official, tourism director Travis Napper, announced yesterday he was leaving to take a job in the private sector with Tourism Economics.

The governor’s press release did not include an explanation for Mills’ departure. The full release:


Sanders Announces Shea Lewis as Interim Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Today, Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced Shea Lewis, currently Director of Arkansas State Parks, will be serving as interim Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism Secretary as Secretary Mike Mills steps away from the administration.

“Arkansas is the Natural State, and with his strong record of leadership in Arkansas parks and tourism, Shea Lewis is perfectly equipped to step seamlessly into this new role and continue our work to grow our outdoor economy and make Arkansas an unparalleled place to live, work, and raise a family,” Sanders said. “I thank Secretary Mills for his service to this administration and years of work as a pioneer in Arkansas’ tourism industry.”

Shea Lewis biography:

Shea Lewis was selected as the 10th director of Arkansas State Parks in 2022. In that role, he was responsible for the day-to-day operation of 52 state parks found in 48 counties, covering 55,000 acres across the state.

With over 9 million visitors on an annual basis, his areas of responsibility ranged from operations, maintenance, planning, development, emergency and program services, marketing, promotion, revenue, sales, outdoor grants, and general administration.

Shea started his career with Arkansas State Parks as a seasonal park interpreter in 1995. With nearly three decades under his belt, he has also served as a full-time interpreter, park superintendent, region supervisor, and deputy director for Arkansas State Parks.

He received a bachelor’s degree in parks, recreation, and leisure studies from the University of Memphis and a master’s degree in educational/instructional media design from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

A spokesperson for the Parks and Tourism department did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Mills’ departure or whether his resignation was requested by the governor.

Pulaski County property tax records show Mills and his wife, Rhonda, bought a house in the Heights neighborhood in Little Rock for $825,000 in December.